Lakeland’s 5 sister cities will surprise and inspire you

Our guide may even make you want to grab your passport and head for our sister cities in Japan or Jamaica.

A bright blue ocean on a sunny day spreads before a mountain range in the distance.

Tour Imabari from the comfort of your own screen.

Photo via @yoshikichanchan

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Hello, or “konnichiwa,” Lakeland. What do Swan City and Imabari, Japan have in common? The two might seem completely unrelated, but they are actually sister cities.

According to Sister Cities International, the idea behind Sister City partnerships is to cultivate international relationships while having the opportunity to explore different cultures and stimulate economic development.

No need to grab your passport. We’re giving you a quick tour of Lakeland’s five sister cities — all from the comfort of home. Without further ado, meet Lakeland’s sister cities:

Imabari, Japan

Est. 1995 | Home to a 17th-century castle, this island city in Japan is a biker’s paradise. Students from Lakeland and Imabari travel to each city to learn each others’ languages and cultures nearly every year.

Bălți, Moldova

Est. 1997 | This city’s name is pronounced “Beltz,” but it’s also known as the “northern capital” for its cultural and commercial contributions. The partnership between this post-Soviet city in Eastern Europe began after Lakeland audiologist Dr. Gregory Spirakis traveled to Bălți to help children facing hearing loss after the collapse of the USSR.

Chongming, China

Est. 2007 | Chongming holds the title of the third-largest island in China. It comes in at 545 square miles — for context, Lakeland encompasses 75. Lakeland and Chongming share a love of mutual prosperity through education, technology, sports, business, and culture.

A beachside scene with rocks, a blue ocean and waves in the foreground, and colorful buildings in the background

Portmore, Jamaica is home to Hellshire Beach seen here.

Photo by @explorewithtash

Portmore, Jamaica

Est. 2009 | A large coastal city with plenty of sunny beach views, Portmore and Lakeland formed connections via local schools, governments, and tourism.

Richmond Hill, Canada

Est. 1990 | We end our virtual vacation in our oldest sister city — which we even visited for ourselves. Richmond Hill and Lakeland share activities like lawn bowling, ice hockey, and golf. The two cities have also hosted exchange students.

If you could make any city in the world one of our sister cities, which one would it be? Which existing sister city do you want to visit most? Share your ideas in our survey.

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